Site/App review: “Stoodle: Instant free virtual classroom”

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As it is widely known, online classrooms have gained popularity although there are still people who believe that the luxury of meeting in a physical classroom by having a face-to-face communication outweighs the effectiveness of having a fully online course.  Regarding online course like MOOCs, it is not possible to conclude that fully online courses can replace traditional classes; however, considering college courses in which the total number of participants do not exceed 30s, we may assume that they can be effective as well. Moreover, tools or websites such as Skype, Google Hangouts, or more specialized ones like Blackboard Collaborate can enhance the effectiveness of fully online courses.

On the other hand, when we consider using this kind of tools to support face-to-face classes for various purposes such as giving feedback and/or supporting our students outside classrooms, we might increase their effectiveness more and more. At this point, tools like Blackboard Collaborate or Google Hangouts with which a teacher can display his screen to all, remote-help his/her students, and communicate with them visually or auditorily might be a little difficult to set up since they might not be free, or require a sophisticated set-up process. Therefore, Stoodle is a tool to fill in this gap in a very easy and free way so that one, as a teacher, can instantly collaborate with students on a virtual whiteboard with as many pages as needed. Throughout the rest of this review, you will be introduced to this tool followed by further ideas and suggestions on how to make use of it effectively in addition to its limitations to illustrate how it could be developed more.

1. Description

Name  : Stoodle: Ultimate Online Learning Experience

URL    : http://stoodle.ck12.org

Use     : As cited from its website,  Stoodle aims “to help bridge the national achievement gap with a free and comprehensive online learning experience.”  Moreover, the features of the tool are as follows:

  • Real-time collaboration on a virtual whiteboard with infinite pages
  • Real-time communication through voice conferencing and text chat
  • Permanent storage of all classrooms for later access
  • Support for image uploading
  • Access to basic drawing tools and colors

2. Intended Audience

Stoodle, as can be seen in the previous section, is intended for mainly instructional or educational purposes. Teachers and tutors are the main target group to use it to hold online office hours, review sessions, provide flexible or individual feedback, and organize illustrated review notes. On the other hand, students can also benefit from this tool by working on homework with their peers, illustrating problems and inviting teachers for help, and finally by creating group study guides.

3. How does it work?

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Simply hit ‘launch a classroom!” and that is it!

Explaining how this tool works might be the easiest part since it is one of the strongest claims or promises of Stoodle. One, either as a teacher or a student, needs to visit the website, and simply hit ‘launch a classroom’. Then, it is all set with a whiteboard in front of you with so many options. Whenever you launch a classroom, you can save it and share the link in the address bar with anyone you would like to collaborate with.  It is a big advantage for virtual classrooms on Stoodle to be stored for later access, too. After you have started a virtual classroom and share the link with others both as a teacher and student, these are the things you can do on a whiteboard:

  • joining the session by writing your nick/name,
  • instant chat with other participants,
  • voice conferencing,
  • uploading images from your computer or any cloud service,
  • taking your pictures and recording videos,
  • sharing links or other videos on the Internet,
  • drawing lines, shapes in different colors,
  • typing and inserting texts,
  • undoing/redoing your actions,
  • creating as many pages as needed on the same whiteboard,
  • sharing what you do on Twitter, Facebook, or via email.

As it is mentioned above, there are several tools and possibilities that you can have using Stoodle in spite of its being free, and not requiring any complex set-up process. Within the following section, I will present more information regarding how this tool can be used for instructional purposes; and then further explain what limitations it has and how it might be developed more.

4. Further suggestions on how the tool might be used & Limitations

First of all, as repeatedly mentioned so far, Stoodle is a very effective tool to create instant virtual classrooms for teachers and their students to interact. Therefore, it is best to use it for an improvised tutoring session or class reviews. Exceeding the boundaries of a classroom or an office, a teacher can hold sessions to provide additional support for his/her students.  Say you would like to give feedback for a student’s writing and you do not have enough time at school. With the ease of a click and launching a virtual classroom on Stoodle, you might upload the whole essay on the whiteboard as an image or simply text. Then, you can set a certain link for each student all through a year and share it with him or her. When both you and your students are online at a certain time, you can explain things and give feedback by drawing on the board, through instant chat or voice conferencing. It is really efficient to be able to store all essays or those feedback sessions so that you can easily monitor your students’ progress. There are so many other ways that you can use Stoodle, but it seems that is best to use it to support your actual class to hold office hours, give feedback, and monitor students’ progress. It is actually possible to appeal more to productive skills like speaking and writing which most students lack while learning a language.

Secondly, a teacher can motivate and guide his/her students to use Stoodle in many different ways.  There are so many telecollaboration studies in which students who speak two different languages, and who are from different departments or countries help each other to teach what they are good at. Stoodle could be a great tool for them to connect with one another. Furthermore, students can use Stoodle simply to work on their homework or assignments outside the school. For instance, for assignments requiring a process work such as brainstorming, developing an idea, creating concept maps, or solving a problem, Stoodle can certainly offer various options for the task to be completed effectively. Besides, they can always store their activity for later access and keep track of their performance.

What is really convenient about Stoodle is that it can be used on any browsers and tablets as well. Today when almost everybody owns either of them, Stoodle can offer lots of opportunities for presenters or educators leading professional development or having sessions at conferences.

On the other hand, although it is a really great and effective tool to launch instant virtual classrooms, this does not necessarily mean that Stoodle is a complete tool in itself with nothing to improve further.  One of the biggest limitations of the tool, especially from a teacher’s perspective, is that nobody is leading the session. It is not possible for a teacher to manage a session. Everybody with the link can join, do modifications on the whiteboard or talk. Regarding tools like Blackboard Collaborate, it is possible for a teacher to administer a session by allowing students to participate, say something or simply join the sessions. However, on Stoodle nobody has the control, which might cause a confusion or a chaotic situation since what you store there might be deleted by anyone with the link.

Moreover, although Stoodle is iPad or tablet-friendly, it seems that it has problems regarding voice conferencing when accessed with an iPad. I personally tested it on two different computers and had no problem regarding voice conferencing. However, when accessed on an iPad, I could not hear the person accessing with a computer, or the person with the computer did not receive my voice from an iPad. Therefore, despite being convenient, it seems that there are still issues with tablets and mobile devices.

Finally, regarding all the features offered by Stoodle, it seems a really effective tool. However, it might be improved more if following features are also added with its future versions:

  • video conferencing,
  • file-sharing,
  • remote desktop and remote control,
  • tabbed chat,
  • typing texts live (normally you type it in a pop-up window and it is inserted somewhere on the whiteboard),
  • better bandwidth, voice quality and echo cancellation,

All in all, Stoodle is certainly a very effective tool for instant virtual classes with the ease of a click, and it certainly serves its objectives well with several great features. However, in order to improve it more and offer as many features as other similar free tools like Google Hangouts, or paid tools like Blackboard Collaborate, it seems that we need wait for newer versions. Regarding the objectives and mission of its developer team, Stoodle is surely going to meet all and even more of these expectations in the near future.

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Summary chart for “Stoodle”

IMPORTANT: This time, you can send me your feedback following this Stoodle link:) You can explore the page and then leave your comments.

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